by Linda L. Esterson

McDaniel College Adds Nursing Degree Program

New BSN Program Leverages partnerships in Carroll to Address Critical Nursing Shortages

As the population ages and the average life span increases, demands on the health care system grow. The decades-long nursing shortage continues to be a significant concern for the state and the county, with nurses aging and retiring and the tenure of those who remain declining. In response to the state of nursing, McDaniel College will welcome the first cohort of nursing students this fall as part of its new bachelor’s degree program in nursing.

In February 2022, the Maryland Hospital Association Workforce Survey found that one in every four hospital nursing positions is vacant. Additionally, the August 2022 State of Maryland’s Health Care Workforce Report revealed that 13,800 additional registered nurses (RNs) and 9,200 licensed practical nurses (LPNs) will be needed by 2035. Officials at Carroll County’s only hospital, LifeBridge Health’s Carroll Hospital, declined to disclose vacancy and turnover rates.

According to Vickie Mazer, McDaniel’s dean of graduate and professional studies, the college began due diligence work to evaluate the possibility of adding a nursing program about five years ago. The interest intensified after the COVID-19 pandemic further strapped the workforce. Addressing the nursing shortage was prioritized in the college’s 2020-2027 strategic plan, which identifies developing compliance programs to meet workforce needs. McDaniel leaders began working with their counterparts at Carroll Hospital and Carroll Community College, which offers a two-year associate degree in registered nursing. Mazer adds that this partnership focuses not only on the workforce shortage but also on the professional development of nurses already in the workforce.

leigh Chapman McDaniel College Adds Nursing Degree Program

“This will not only benefit Carroll County and Carroll Hospital, but also the health care system itself. We just need more nurses, period.” – LEIGH CHAPMAN

“There has always been an ongoing conversation about how we as an institution need to change and grow to meet student demand (and) workforce demand,” Mazer says. “There has been a conversation in the past, but I would say this is the first part of the strategic process of addressing nursing.”

McDaniel filed the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program proposal with the Maryland Board of Nursing in January 2023. The school received approval from the Maryland Higher Education Commission in April 2023 and Board of Nursing approval in November 2023.

The college’s leadership evaluated enrollment data and programs across the state and country, as well as the turnover and vacancies experienced at Carroll Hospital and its sister LifeBridge Health facilities, Northwest Hospital in Randallstown, Sinai Hospital in Northwest Baltimore and Grace Medical Center in West Baltimore. According to Leigh Chapman, chief nursing officer at Carroll Hospital, hospital officials continually implement various strategies to assist with staffing, including hiring international, agency and temporary nurses. Carroll Hospital also holds regular hiring events for nurses and offers incentives like sign-on bonuses, tuition reimbursement and continuing education programs.

“This will not only benefit Carroll County and Carroll Hospital,” Chapman explains, but also the health care system itself. “We just need more nurses, period.”

Creating a Program

McDaniel College’s Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program provides an additional option for students interested in nursing careers. Carroll Community College’s 70-credit program comprises general education and pre-clinical coursework and clinical requirements. The community college has agreements with several state schools, including Frostburg, Stevenson and Towson universities and the University of Maryland, allowing students enrolled in the Associate of Science, registered nurse program to complete coursework toward a BSN degree concurrently. After earning the associate degree, students also enroll at a four-year institution to complete the BSN program. McDaniel plans to seek approval for an RN to BSN track, with concurrent enrollment at Carroll Community College, after the new BSN program is fully underway.

High school students in the county can pursue nursing education through the Carroll County Career and Technology Center, with its honors nursing program. Accepted students spend the first semester of their senior year studying patient care, disease processes, infection control and safety issues as they serve as certified nursing assistants in a long-term care facility while supervised by an instructor. Students build upon classroom skills with hands-on experiences with residents and patients. During the second semester, they fulfill an internship as a clinical medical assistant at a medical office, a patient care technician at Carroll Hospital or a geriatric nursing assistant at the geriatric care facility.

The program will emphasize requirements of the state board and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, which administers the NCLEX licensure exam, explains Heather Gable, McDaniel’s BSN program director. The work will include establishing a framework for the program, including specific courses, clinical placement requirements, and curriculum and content for each course. At the same time, students will find McDaniel’s liberal arts and sciences focus incorporated into the general education and prerequisite coursework in the nursing curriculum. Mazer explains that many courses will provide crossover and co-curricular opportunities with faculty in other departments.

“It’s not just about the experiences that the student could potentially have because we can make that happen,” Gable notes. “It’s about having their perspective in the class infused into the core of the course and then the core of the curriculum in general. That’s what sets it apart and (makes it) different. It is the active engagement with the liberal arts faculty, and that, in my experience, has not been offered (elsewhere).”

A national search is underway for full- and part-time nursing faculty with expertise in critical care, pediatrics, mental health and women’s health. Faculty will provide instruction on the nursing-specific coursework beginning in fall 2026 when the first cohort of students begins its junior year of study. This fall, accepted students will complete general education and prerequisite coursework to prepare for nursing-focused coursework and clinical instruction.

McDaniel expects to include 25 students in the first cohort, gradually increasing to accommodate 36 new students in year three and beyond.

Clinical Rotations

The nursing program will include a clinical component presented in a hospital setting. The instructor joins the students, who are paired with experienced nurses first on a medical and surgical unit and later in specialty areas. Students learn about patient diagnoses and medications, and during the semester, they increase their participation to include medication administration, bathing, assessment and documentation.

“We take what they’re learning in the classroom and apply it to patients in a very safe, controlled and monitored way,” Chapman explains. “It’s a benefit to us. The students (also) are able to provide additional love and compassion to patients who may just need somebody to speak with them.”

As the program partner, the aim is to provide clinical experiences for all of the McDaniel students at Carroll Hospital and other LifeBridge Health facilities. In addition, some of the clinical instruction will occur in the state-of-the-art simulation center, which opened at Carroll Hospital last year.

Chapman explains that as the nurses move through their senior year, the hope is to hire them as nurse externs. This trajectory enables them to start orientation early, so they have a shorter ramp-up time to practice when they graduate and pass the board exam.

County Support

According to McDaniel’s website, the BSN will expand upon a nursing concentration in McDaniel’s health sciences major, focusing on labs and classwork to build a firm foundation in medical care and the health field and includes coursework in chemistry, biology and human physiology. McDaniel also offers majors in biology and kinesiology. Because the new nursing program will build on the foundation that already exists, including a crossover with these existing programs, the college was unable to identify costs specific to the BSN program, according to McDaniel spokesperson Cheryl Knauer.

Funding for the new program has come from several sources, including The Kahlert Foundation, which contributed $150,000 to support the program’s development.

“Providing exceptional nursing care forms the bedrock of a thriving community. Alarming statistics reveal that 25% of nursing roles in Maryland’s hospitals remain unfilled. Addressing this issue in Carroll County and statewide, The Kahlert Foundation was pleased to support McDaniel College’s emerging nursing program,” says Ellen Myers, the foundation’s executive director.

“The foundation is especially gratified by the collaboration between McDaniel College, Carroll Hospital and Carroll Community College in this initiative. The joining of these three esteemed institutions demonstrates a united commitment to community well-being.”

“Providing exceptional nursing care forms the bedrock of a thriving community.” – ELLEN MYERS

McDaniel’s BSN program proposal included letters of support from many local leaders and organizations, including the Maryland Hospital Association, Carroll County Public Schools, the Maryland General Assembly members representing the area, the Board of Carroll County Commissioners and Westminster Mayor Dr. Mona Becker.

Carroll Hospital President Garrett Hoover, who has been involved in the project since the initial meeting with McDaniel officials, expressed a steadfast commitment to the partnership with McDaniel to “elevate our ability to recruit and train highly qualified nurses to live and work in Carroll County.”

The new program also received support from the Carroll County Health Department, which will partner with the college for student placements. “It is vitally important that future nurses understand and experience public health nursing, which focuses on prevention of illness and injury, health promotion, and linkage to community resources,” says Community Health Services Director of Nursing Tierney Youngling, MSN, RN, CNL, CHEP,. “Carroll County will directly benefit from having public health trained nurses, who have roots in our community, to serve our aging and increasingly diverse population.”

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